Victorina Mesina Magbag was born on February 25, 1921, the eldest daughter of Sebastian Guzman Magbag and Salome Suarez Mesina who both were from San Fernando, Pampanga. She is fondly called by her nickname Nanang. She has 4 brothers and 5 sisters namely, Alejandro, Jose, Leonardo , Emmanuel, Juanita, Cristanita, Salome, Nicena and Rita.

When Nanang was two years old, she went to live with her grandparents Dionisio Magbag and Juana Guzman in a Hacienda called Sinura. A lovely home surrounded by fruit trees, flower garden with native roses, a poultry and a vegetable garden.

This was a place where she enjoyed playing around with the children of the farmers, chewing sugar cane, climbing trees like atis and santol and playing with dolls made of wax. Three years later, when Nanang was about five years old, she joined her parents in Bamban, Tarlac where her father was now working at a sugar mill owned by a Spaniard known as Cortabitarte.

She began going to school at the age of seven in Bamban Elementary School. She would walk to school barefooted or in wooden shoes, and used banana leaves as her umbrella whenever it rained.

Nanang as a 10 yr old Grade 4 student at Bamban Elementary School 1930-1931

Though they didn’t have much to use during that time, they had American books for school since the country was under the Americans. Singing the American National Anthem followed by the Philippine National Anthem in English was one of the things they would often do in class.

They were taught Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Music, Good Manners and Right Conduct, as well as Geography and Home Economics. The life she lived was very simple, she would also help her mother take care of the household. She would do chores like wash clothes in the river, cook with firewood, fetch water for the family to use, and help her mother cook native delicacies like bibingka, suman and leche flan.

Nanang as a 4th year high school student

At the age of thirteen, Nanang went to Pampanga High School in San Fernando, Pampanga were she stayed at her grandparents old house about 4 kilometers away. Waking up as early as 5 a.m. to cook her breakfast and rice for lunch, she would then buy her viand and start walking to be able to get to school at 7 a.m.

The population was so small that you knew everyone in town. No courting was allowed since parents were very strict, no beer drinking since they only had lemonade and sarsaparilla. Later on, Nanang graduated from High School.

In 1939, Nanang moved to Manila. During those days, it was accepted that women would not go to college since they were expected to get married and raise a family, while the men were to be the providers for the family’s daily needs. But she took the UP Manila college entrance exam and passed.

With the support of her father, she enrolled at the University with a Tuition fee that was about P45-56 per semester. She had a budget of P30 a month, paying P21 for the dormitory, P2 for laundry and P7 for clothes, shoes and other needs. Her schooling continued for 2 years but she was forced to stop when her father got sick.

NATIONAL UNIVERSITY (NU) in Sampaloc, Manila Philippines during the 1920’s (androgynous16.blogspot)

She was advised to seek help from a relative who was married to a teacher from National University. With much effort, she sought the help of N.U.’s president to accept her as a working student and was readily accepted without any sponsor. While she was studying in National  University, she stayed with the family of a cousin of her father, Isaias Dimalanta. Her stay with them was comfortable that she had more than enough for her needs.

The war suddenly broke out on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese started bombing Nichols Field (now Villamor Air Base). Her uncle Isaias had to send to Nanang to her grandparents home in San Fernando.

Smoke rising from Nichols Field airbase following a Japanese air raid during World War Two, Philippines, December 10th 1941. (Photo by US Army Signal Corps/Getty Images)

She hurriedly went to Tutuban to get the train and proceeded to Tarlac where her parents evacuated. The Magbag family had to stay with their Uncle Alejandro and Aunt Anicia Navarro in their farm filled with different fruit trees near the Tarlac capitol. Every time, the Japanese started their aerial bombings, they would scamper to the dug outs for safety.

A day before Christmas, the family had to evacuate to the mountain range of Zambales because the Japanese had landed at Lingayen. Their means of transport to carry  their food and belongings was a carabao-driven sledge passing through narrow paths.

As they moved, they would walk from 4 in the afternoon till 2 in the morning and slept in open fields. They had to do that for 10 days to reach a barrio called Malonzo.

Three months after living in the mountains, her grandfather Dionisio fetched and brought them to Magalang. Later on, they moved to a barrio in Angeles where her mother Salome would sell milkfish in the market while Nanang would sell threads, eggs and other things in the nearby market. 

When the Japanese had occupied the whole island, they started planting cotton, and Nanang was employed as a clerk together with her brother Alex who worked as a supervisor in the fields. She and Alex would borrow bicycles from the company and bike home to Bamban on weekends. They both earned enough to buy a cavan of rice at P2, sugar, soap and other necessities which they bought from the company known as Kanebo Fuchi Boseki Kaisha in Mabalacat.

Clark Air Base, formely known as Fort Stotsenberg, was built in 1903 and things were never the same for Angeles City. (Hal Katzman)

In 1944 the Magbag family together with their grandparents decided to move to Magalang when news that Americans were returning reached them. They could see American fighter planes passing through Mt. Arayat carpet bombing Clark Field.

Her Uncle Wenceslao, a doctor, would treat people wounded by stray bullets and shrapnel. At this time, the family was now staying at the Luciano’s big house in Magalang. Soon after, the Americans arrived and her parents moved back to Bamban, while Nanang stayed with her grandparents and worked at the Ordnance company of the American Army.

When Clark Air Base reopened in 1945,  Nanang, her father Sebastian, and her sister Neneng went to work there. On weekends, she would go to Manila to attend Saturday classes.  Having known that Bamban Institute was in need of teachers, she applied and was accepted.

Nanang with some college friends.

During weekends, Nanang would teach English and History while finishing her studies. She graduated at the National University with a degree in Education.

Nanang’s College Graduation Picture at National University

Nanang met Pablo Pabling Paras for the first time when he asked for the hand of Nicing (Nanang’s sister) in marriage. After seven months however, Nicing died from tetanus. After she passed on, Pabling moved to Guagua, Pampanga to join his brother Susing, buying trucks, jeeps, weapons carrier, restoring and selling them as well.

Nanang’s Masteral Class at Bamban Institute.

After she graduated, Nanang took her Masters in Education at Bamban Institute and continued working as a teacher.

A year after, Pabling started to write Nanang while he was in Guagua. He would visit the family in Bamban during fiestas and  other occasions. His friends and relatives would write Nanang to endorse him. He was waiting for her to marry him.

Pabling went to Mindanao in February of 1951, he was surveying for a place where he could set up a machine shop. He went Davao and Zamboanga but thought Dadiangas (now General Santos City) was an ideal place. But on his way back to Manila, the plane had an overnight stopover in Cagayan de Oro. Taking this as an opportunity to go around the city, he went around and decided that the city was a good place to start his business.

On the 23rd of June 1951, Nanang married Pabling and moved to Cagayan de Oro with around P200 in their pockets. Nanang found a place to stay in Pabayo St. where the Obenzas had a vacant space on the ground floor while Pabling started his business at a shop owned by Pastor Macasero. They had new found friends and neighbors like the Ramonals, the Wadhus and the Malferraris.

Baby Elpie at 4 months and 20 days.

Nanang gave birth to their first born son Elpidio ‘Elpie’ (baby no.1) on May 23, 1952. The attending doctor was Dr. Emilio Dayrit who also hailed from Pampanga and became the family’s physician and family friend. Soon after, Jesus Emmanuel ‘Jess’ (baby no.2) was born on Christmas of 1953.

Nanang’s first daughter Zenaida ‘Zeny’ (baby no.3 )was born on March 25, 1955.

From Pabayo St. the Paras family moved to Mabini St. in 1955, where they rented a house owned by the Ramonals.

But a year later, Nanang had to find a place of their own and found a lot owned by a Ms. Roa located in Puntod. They bought an area of 1,000 sq.m. for P7/sq.m. She made a down payment of P3,000 and paid a monthly amortization of P300.

Friends they considered family helped the couple build the home. William and Johnny Tompkins cleared the area, the Ramonals gave bamboo, Pedro ‘Oloy’ Roa gave them timber, their Filipino-Chinese customers gave them drums for the walls, and Dr. Dayrit gave P50 for electrical wires.

Instead of going home to Bamban every Christmas, the couple decided to spend the holidays in Cagayan de Oro to save money since their family was growing. Their new house in Puntod was already finished and Pablo Jr. ‘Litoy’ was born on February 15, 1957.

When their children started going to school, the boys went to Xavier UniversityAteneo de Cagayan while the girls went to Lourdes College. Nanang was busy with the household and helped Pabling in the machine shop which was located next to the house. She took care of the importation of a new crankshaft grinder. At that time, the exchange was at 4 pesos to the dollar.

Nanang was quite busy with the family and the shop, and yet she still had time to grow vegetables, raise ducks, turkeys and chickens in the yard. She also began to grow roses.

The family didn’t stop growing as well. Ruben ‘Benjie’ (baby no. 5) the 4th son was born on November 2, 1958 followed by Victor ‘Vic’ (baby no. 6) the 5th son on May 18, 1960.

Their second daughter Angela ‘Angel’ (baby no.7) was born on the 1st of June 1962. By this time, the family was able to buy the adjacent lot and Nanang was able to plant grapes.

Meanwhile the relatives of Pabling migrated to Cagayan de Oro namely the Simpaos, the Reyeses, Terrados and Pabling’s sisters Engracia, Josefa, Flora and Andrea.

In the adjacent property, Pabling and Nanang soon built a house for their relatives where Andrea, Flora and the Reyes family would stay and bought another one in Corrales where the Terrados would reside.

Aside from that Nanang was able to buy a 6.7 hectare property in Baloy for only P4,200 now her love for planting expanded to citrus, santols, chicos, coconuts, and other fruit trees.  It was also in the same year Pabling and Nanang started to construct the big house at the back of the Puntod property.

A year after, Nanang gave birth to Raymund ‘Ray ‘the 6th son (baby no. 8) in Manila on October 29, 1963. This time the big house was finished and they were able to move in. The house frequently hosted visitors from Luzon since there were still no hotels in Cagayan de Oro.

Pabling and Nanang with their 10 children. Front row: Benjie, Raymund, Sally & Necy, Angel, & Vic.
Back row : Pablo Jr., Jess, Pablo & Victorina, Elpie, & Zeny. (photo courtesy of Jess Paras)

Finally, the youngest twin daughters were born on November 11, 1965 and were named after Pabling’s mother Maria Inez ‘Necy’ and Nanang’s mother Maria Salome ‘Sally’ (babies no. 9 & 10). 

The Paras General Repair Shop was earning so well that Pabling was able to build jeepneys for rent serving passengers traversing between the Pier in Macabalan to Divisoria . They had 12 jeeps naming them after their ten children, and 2 more named Elpie2 and Jess2. The Paras General Repair Shop was incorporated to PARAS MACHINERY WORKS INC. in 1967.

Paras General Repair Shop and the Paras jeepneys at Puntod.

As the family grew bigger, Pabling and Nanang also found time to be members of the Rotary Club, Knights of Columbus and CFM group where they found their closest friends. Attending district conferences in different places were one of the enjoyable things they did during that time. Their circle of friends grew bigger.

In 1969, Pabling and Nanang started a new machine shop in Iligan. They would stay there for the entire week to manage the construction, while Pabling’s sisters Flora and Josefa would take care of the kids.

Nanang was invited to learn the art of making ceramics by the son of her friend Trining Pineda in 1972. She initially made cigarette holders as giveaways for the machine shop. She made beads to produce chokers, necklaces and bracelets. She also made beautifully painted jars and small giveaways for weddings and anniversaries. She received assistance from NACIDA (now DTI), a painter from Spain, a German consultant, and Philippine Airlines, which displayed her products.

Nanang at Paras Ceramics when it was just starting out as a NACIDA-registered cottage industry.

Paras Ceramics became known for its beautiful ceramics and was exporting to other countries through Manila FAME. Aside from ceramic making, Nanang also co-founded the Ikebana International –CDO Chapter –a club of women doing the art of Japanese floral arrangements.

These two hand painted ceramic vases from Paras Ceramics compare well with the Murano glass vases of Italy. (Jess Paras)

Her hobbies in gardening and making ceramics became her businesses. Whenever important visitors arrived from Manila, the Department of Tourism would recommend they visit Paras Ceramics  and Nanang’s garden.

In 1974, Nanang and Pabling traveled to Hongkong, Japan and Taiwan with Elpie. Pabling and Nanang also made a trip to China.

At the same time, their home in Caloocan was being built. The Paras family would now have a place to stay when they were in Manila.

 In 1975, Pabling started a company engaged in heavy equipment leasing and eventually expanded into aggregates production and construction, which became G & P Builders, Inc. The main office was in Puntod with headquarters at Natumolan, Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.

Pabling and Nanang Paras with their 10 children during their Silver Wedding Anniversary on June 23, 1976 at Jesus Nazareno Church.

Nanang and Pabling celebrated their Silver Wedding Anniversary on June 23, 1976. The mass was officiated by Father Cebrero S.J., a long-time friend of the family and the parish priest of Jesus Nazareno Church where the family attended mass every Sunday.

In 1977, Jess got married to Consuelo ‘Nena’ Gimenez at Paco Park, Manila, followed by Elpie who married Rose Galenzoga in Davao City.

The first grandson of the Paras Family was born on October 22, 1977, Javier Francisco ‘Javi’, the son of Jess and Nena.

In the same year, Nanang and Pabling traveled to Europe for the first time. They spent P23,000 only for 31 days, including 2 cities in the United States.

Zeny went to Australia to marry Neville Sturzaker in May 11, 1978. She gave birth the following year to the first granddaughter Leanne on November 28, 1979. The day after Nanang and Pabling traveled to Melbourne to visit them.

Paras Machinery Works Corporation put up another shop in Maramag, Bukidnon in 1981. They rented a place to be able to service the Hanjin company which was building a dam in the area.

In the same year, Victor married Lani Q. Wong from Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, while Benjie got married  to Nora Piñero  from Ozamiz City the following year on 30th of October.

Paras Beach Resort at Yumbing, Mambajao, Camiguin.

Later, the family bought a property in Yumbing, Camiguin where Nanang and Pabling together with the children and grandchildren spent Easter and summer vacations. Nanang enjoyed landscaping the area and tending her plants while everyone enjoyed the sea. This eventually became the Paras Beach Resort.

In 1984, Soroptimist International CDO Chapter gave Nanang Recognition as their Committee Director and Women of Distinction Award in 1986 for her Economic and Social Development.

Litoy married Ma. Ana Policarpio from Pampanga on June 10, 1989. Sally got married to Edward Herman van Ommeren of the Netherlands in 1993, while her twin Necy married Karl Fortich of Bukidnon in 1994. They were followed by Raymund who married Irnita Liñan from Cagayan de Oro in 1995. The Paras siblings were now all married and with children.

When a fire started in the building in front of their  house in Puntod, Nanang and Pabling were in the garden when Pabling suddenly collapsed and later died of a heart attack on March 7, 1998. It was a heartbreak for Nanang and the family.

Another heartbreak followed on 9th of January 2003, when Pablo Jr. likewise died from a heart attack while undergoing treatment for Esophageal cancer in Manila.

Nanang at 82 years old at Victor’s place in Dahilayan, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon.

In the latter part of 2003, Victor discovered the beautiful Barangay Dahilayan in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon where the Paras siblings bought adjoining properties. Nanang’s propagation of plants kept her busy for her children’s gardens in Dahilayan. Her love for plants and flowers including fruit trees can be seen in each of the family’s properties.

In 2012, Nanang receives a token of appreciation for her 40 years of continuous support and cooperation from Ikebana  International CDO. The following year, Ikebana CDO featured her ceramic vases with floral arrangements by the members in celebration of her 92nd birthday.

For their 50th Anniversary, SM Shoemart paid tribute to Nanang for being their business partner from 1975 to 1990. She supplied SM with her ceramic necklaces, bracelets  and accessories.

Nanang at 95 in 2016

When Nanang celebrated her 95th birthday in 2016, friends and relatives from abroad came to join the celebration. Her friends from the Rotary Club  and Ikebana CDO also attended the joyous occasion.

At present, Nanang’s passion for gardening continues. Her morning exercise would include sweeping the grounds of her garden, and propagating new plants and enjoying them when their flowers were in bloom. She is at her happiest when she is able to give seedlings to everyone.

Every Sunday, she would pick flowers from her garden and arrange them for her home. She still joins zoom meetings of Ikebana CDO. She is the original plantita of Cagayan de Oro as she started collecting, growing flowers and plants from 1950’s till the present and being the oldest active member of Ikebana CDO.

Nanang going through her morning routine at the ripe young age of 100.

At her age of 100, she still takes care of her family’s food every Sunday. She is very attentive to the needs of her family. She is the pillar of the family, her opinion is of utmost importance and is highly respected by everyone.

She has been the driving force in the Paras clan, almost all of the properties that she and Pabling acquired were through her foresight and prudence.

She never runs out of prayers, is always hopeful, no wonder God has truly blessed her. Her happy disposition makes her loved by everyone she meets. Her generosity extends not only to her family, but also to friends and even strangers.

Cagayan de Oro’s Indefatigable Tia Nanang at 100.

She would always share her plants, her ceramic accessories which she made herself. She treats those who work for her like family, shares her food and give extra attention to their needs.

She is often mistaken to be a relative of someone because of the way she treated them. She has been a mother not only to her children but also to her nephews and nieces who stayed with her in the 1960’s and 70’s. Her home has always been open to everyone. She never runs out of guests, everyone loves to visit her.

Nanang Paras through her first century. To her 100 is just a number.

(All Paras family photos courtesy of the Paras Family)


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